Size: 63 acres
Location: Bernalillo County
Eco-Region: Arizona-New Mexico Mountains
Conservation Values: Scenic Open Space, Wildlife Habitat
Type of Project: Land Acquisition Project
Date Completed: April, 2007
The Hawkwatch property is located along I-40 in Tijeras Canyon, between the Carnuel Land Grant and the Village of Tijeras, approximately five miles east of Albuquerque in Bernalillo County. Situated along the south slope of the Sandia Mountains, the property is comprised of mixed pinyon-juniper and grassland, and provides significant habitat for mule deer, mountain lion, black bear, and a variety of small mammal and birds. The property is adjacent to the Sandia Mountain Wilderness Area, administered by the U.S. Forest Service, and the City of Albuquerque’s Tres Pistolas Open Space property. As described below, NMLC facilitated the acquisition of the property by the City of Albuquerque’s Open Space Division (AOSD), which will manage it for public recreation and open space uses consistent with the wildlife management objectives of the acquisition.
In early 2004, a group of concerned citizens, non-profit conservation organizations and government agencies banded together to form the Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition (TCSPC) with the goals of creating a wildlife corridor between the Sandia and Manzano mountains, and ensuring safe passage of wildlife across the I-40 corridor. Tijeras Canyon has been identified by the Carnivore Working Group as one of the top four wildlife corridors in New Mexico, and by the Wildlands Project as one of North America’s five most important wildlife linkages.
NMLC was asked to join the Coalition in June 2004 to assist with the identification and protection of critical private lands within Tijeras Canyon. The busy transportation corridor along I-40 and associated developments through Tijeras Canyon are making it increasingly difficult for terrestrial animals to travel between the two mountain ranges. One of the key pieces of private land in Tijeras Canyon was the 63-acre subject property, then owned by Hawkwatch International (HI), an international raptor conservation organization based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Hawkwatch property is located along Highway 333 (Old Route 66), between the villages of Carnuel and Tijeras, just west of its intersection with I-40 in an area locally known as Deadman’s Curve. This location is a hotspot for wildlife collisions along Highway 333, where wildlife are funneled down via the canyon drainage to the north and are crossing Highway 333 in attempts to access food and water in Tijeras Creek below.
In February 2006, the Coalition discovered that HI was actively seeking to sell the property on the open market to generate much needed operating revenue. At the request of the Coalition, NMLC approached HI to explore their interest in working with NMLC to find a conservation buyer for their property.
After approaching the AOSD and learning of their interest in acquiring the property, NMLC worked with the Albuquerque City Council to identify and earmark funding for the acquisition and then assisted with the negotiation of the final sale agreement between the City and HI. On April 13, 2007 the City of Albuquerque closed on the acquisition of the Hawkwatch property, purchasing the property from HI for $630,000.
Photo of deer in highway underpass (slide show/top) courtesy of NM Dept. of Transportation (NMDOT). Photo below of Mother bear and cubs in Tijeras Canyon by Mark Watson, New Mexico Dept. of Game & Fish.